The spotlight has moved to another WA mining pioneer, Don Rhodes, as DFD Rhodes makes its opening submissions during a lengthy court trial over billions of dollars in iron ore royalties.
The spotlight has moved onto another WA mining pioneer, Don Rhodes, as DFD Rhodes makes its opening submissions on the second week of a lengthy court trial over billions of dollars of iron ore royalties.
DFD Rhodes Pty Ltd launched legal action against Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd (HPPL), claiming a stake in royalties from iron ore produced in tenements originally named Hope Downs and East Angelas, also called Hope Downs 4, 5, and 6.
The focus of the scheduled three-month civil trial had initially been on the opening remarks from Wright Prospecting Pty Ltd (WPPL), with descendants of prospector Peter Wright claiming millions of dollars’ worth of royalties from iron ore projects on the Hope Downs tenements and ownership of the East Angelas reserves, likely worth in the billions of dollars.
DFD Rhodes is claiming it was also owed royalties from iron ore produced by the ‘HanWright’ partnership, as per an agreement the parties have signed in 1969.
Donovan Francis Duncan Rhodes, known as Don Rhodes, was an earthmoving and trucking contractor who established DFD Rhodes in 1950. The company has since remained a family-owned business.
Lawyer for DFD Rhodes Jeremy Stoljar SC today said his client’s claim remained the same no matter the outcome of the proceedings between WPPL and HPPL.
“We say very simply, it’s produced by HanWright or by HPPL or WPPL or both,” he said in his opening submissions.
Mr Stoljar told the court that DFD Rhodes was entitled to 1.25 per cent of all proceeds received from the sale or disposal of iron ore mined from the disputed tenements by the HanWright partnership, under the 1969 agreement.
The Hope Downs and East Angelas reserves have been jointly owned by Rio Tinto and HPPL since 2005.
Mr Wright was well known as the former business partner of Lang Hancock in their decades-long collaboration over exploring and expanding mining projects in the Pilbara.
A mining pioneer in his own right, Mr Rhodes and his company developed a manganese mine in Woodie Woodie that has been credited for the boost in the region's economy and population in the 1950s and the 1960s.
The Woodie Woodie mine achievement was recognised by Mr Hancock in his letter to Mr Rhodes, in which he said he had never done anything but praised the latter’s work in the North West, the court was told.
In court, Mr Stoljar said the letter came a day after a meeting among major mining players in 1972 where Mr Hancock “shot his mouth off” and "tread on some toes" by exaggerating his own achievements.
However, Mr Stoljar said Mr Rhodes had a collegiate relationship with both HPPL and WPPL since at least the 1950s, though more so with Mr Hancock.
“They often dealt with matters among themselves… [through] exchange of letter between themselves without debate or argument,” he told the court.
In his opening submissions, Mr Stoljar detailed the correspondence exchanged among DFD Rhodes and HanWright in the lead up to the 1969 agreement.
Correspondence revealed by Mr Stoljar in court included BHP’s letter to DFD Rhodes about its interest in the tenements and a letter signed by former Liberal Party minister Fred Chaney, who was a solicitor for the HanWright partnership in 1968 and 1969.
Mr Hancock’s daughter Gina Rinehart is currently spearheading HPPL while WPPL is owned by Mr Wright’s daughter, Angela Bennett, and grandchildren, Alexandra Burt and Leonie Baldock.
The trial is being held more than a decade after WPPL started its action against HPPL and revolves around disputed assets under HanWright partnership agreements struck by the two mining pioneers, particularly in the 1980s.
Last week, lawyers for Wright Prospecting told the court that DFD Rhodes should not be paid royalties from Hope Downs mines, but it could have a right to royalties over East Angelas if the court decides the tenements were assets of the HanWright partnership.
The trial continues.